Technology

Stop! You Can't Use that Camera! It's Illegal!

Here's a small example of why I have grown to dislike government and its greed for ever-increasing regulation.

Let's say you want to record an hour long video. What kind of camera would you choose? Well, you could simply use the camera in your smart phone to record an hour of video. Or, you could use the WebCam in your laptop or desktop computer to record an hour of video. You could use a camcorder, which arguably is the easiest method. Or, you could get very fancy and use a professional video camera along with a professional video recorder. You're free to choose all of those methods.

But, you cannot record an hour of video on a DSLR, even though the camera is capable of recording hours of motion picture quality video.

Why?

Well, it's not a technical limitation with the DSLR.

It's the law.

I'm not joking, I'm not making this up, it is the law.

You see, in the United States it is against the law for an imported DSLR camera to be able to record video for more than 29 minutes and 29 seconds. Regardless of the technological capability of the camera. By the way, DSLRs sold in other countries around the world can record hours of video. That includes the same models sold in the USA.

Let me bring this home to you: the only reason a DSLR sold in the USA cannot record more than 29 minutes of video is because of government regulation.No technological limitation exists. The cameras are perfectly capable of recording hours of vide. The only reason they can't is because of an arbitrary, completely unnecessary, government regulation created out of thin air by an unelected, faceless bureaucrat.

Why? Who does that benefit? Not me. Not you. But I bet some big campaign donor benefits.

So, you see, our unenlightened government doesn't believe you should have the freedom to record an hour or more of video on a DSLR camera.

Now, I understand this is not a vitally important event. I bring it up because it goes to show the attitude of our government toward us, the citizens of United States. We, the government, will decide how you can record an hour of video - you don't have the freedom to choose what you want.

Now step back and think of all the other small, everyday freedoms that excessive government regulation has taken away from you.

Tell me, why I should support any politician who will not increase our personal liberty by curtailing this monstrous factory of neverending regulations that we call the United States federal government?

The Smple Project That Became Un-Simple

Here's the latest on my Dual 1218 restoration project. On initial inspection, the mechanism was frozen solid. With these older 1200 series, that's usually just dried out lubricant that's become rock hard - a straightforward if tedious project. Remove all lubricants, which requires disassembling the mechanism; clean thoroughly, replace lubricants, reassemble then enjoy music.

Well, the more I get into the project the more I find wrong. It's been victim of prior repair attempts that created more problems than they solved: bent shafts, stripped threads, incorrectly assembled torsion springs.

Now the latest: missing parts. Yes, the previous owner lost several parts and used one that is the wrong part. Grrrrrr.....

I'll get it going, that's not in doubt, but what could have been a simple project became a major effort. I'm not really complaining because I'm delighted to be able to resurrect one of these classic turntables.

The lesson: when you attempt to service a vintage deck, take your time. Get a service manual.

Don't force parts together - if they're stubborn there is a reason, so stop, look and think. Find an expert on the particular turntable and get their advice.

Take photos every step of the way so you don't forget what to do or lose your place.

Keep every part! Repeat - keep every part. Nothing is superfluous.

Don't just use any oil you have: Dual used specific lubricants. Substitute them and things won't work correctly.

Time For Changing Times

Yikes.

Times are changing.

As some of you know, since the late 1970s I've recorded interviews for broadcasts, oral history archives, and spoken word tapes. I've used the same equipment all these decades as well, a variety of AKG and ElectroVoice microphones connected to Uher 4000 Report series or Revox A77 analog tape recorders, depending on the venue. I can practically do the recordings in my sleep because I'm so accustomed tot he equipment.

The Uher 4000 Report series are battery-powered reel-to-reel machines designed specifically for recording interviews. They're so good at it I can forgive their poor ergonomics, nearly-useless level meter, and their tendency to be fairly maintenance-intensive compared to other analog recorders.

The rugged, crystal-clear Revox A77 is a classic that has a loyal following all these years later. They're one of the few audiophile stereo tape recorders that was so good that more studios and professionals bought them than did audiophiles. They’re practically “unfuckupable” with regard to getting a great recording. It makes the job just so easy.

The catch: You need to find an AC mains to plug the Revox A77 into. No battery. Revox seems to think that if you put a handle on something that makes it portable. "Oh, here's a great idea -- let's make a portable full-size reel-to-reel. All we need is a nice handle. Just ignore its hernia-inducing 52-pound weight."

But, with the passage of time, I’m finding that a great audio tape of an interview isn’t enough. It’s the YouTube era, and “video killed the radio star.” So, I have to go video.

Eek.

So, being an audio guy first and foremost, I needed a small camera with great audio. An affordable small camera. The only one I found is the Zoom Q8. It has XLR inputs and a super-wideangle lens. I hate the lens. And I hate the cheesy X/Y microphones that stick out from the back like a deformed scorpion stinger. But the audio from the XLR inputs is okay.

Nasty surprise though: many of my 1970s-era ENG microphones don’t interface well with the Q*’s microphone preamplifiers, XLR inputs notwithstanding. The Q8’s microphone inputs are impedance-bridging, my ENG microphones need impedance-matching inputs. You try connecting a 50 Ohm ElectroVoice 644 or Altec 638A, or (worse) a transformerless-200 Ohm AKG D900 to the Q8’s 1.8K inputs. Sounds thin.

But my ElectroVoice 635A and 660, and the Shure VP64 and SM59 microphones seem to connect adequately enough. The SM59s always draw comments and attract crowds. They were once popular with game show hosts, televangelists and The Gong Show.

That’s something to start with.

It's a bit of a shock making the transition. The touchscreen, and its tiny bargraph meters take a bit to get used to. And that super wide lens makes everything look like one of those phony “virtual reality” scenes out of a B-grade science fiction movie directed by Roger Corman.

Oh well.

Stayin’ Alive.

Never Truly Obsolete

I was thinking the other day about all the obsolete technology that we still use, even if it's a niche market. For many people, newer isn't always better. There's a few that I was thinking about:
Manual mechanical typewriter: From their beginnings in the late Eighteenth Century to their near extinction in the 1990s, the typewriter is undergoing a revival mainly among hipsters and old fossils like myself, these cumbersome devices have one huge advantage. They force you to refine your writing because they lack the ability to efficiently edit documents or easily correct errors. Some say this makes you into a better writer because the process forces you to write well the first time around.

Analog disc recording: since 1888, when it was invented by Emile Berliner, analog disc recordings in one format or another have been in continuous production. Sales of the modern analog vinyl LP disc record have been soaring in recent years. The sound and the experience of the analog disc ensures its continuing popularity for the foreseeable future.

Magnetic analog audio recorders: beginning with Vlademar Poulsen's Telegraphone wire recorder of 1898, magnetic analog audio recorders became the standard audio recording technology for recording studios and Minnie amateurs in the late 1940s. Digital audio gradually replaced magnetic analog recorders in recording studios during the late 1980s and in home audio systems in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, magnetic analog audio recorders have made a large comeback in recent years, especially reel-to-reel and cassette formats. Hipsters, audiophiles, musicians and professional audio engineers every discovered the appealing sound of magnetic analog audio recorders.

Dynamic microphones: 1923 brought the Marconi-Sykes Magnetophone, the first practical dynamic microphone, to professional audio. Despite becoming technologically obsolescent by the 1970s, dynamic microphones are still commonplace. Their reliability and reasonable fidelity has made the dynamic microphone an indispensable part of every PA system and recording system. They'll be with us for the foreseeable future.

Moving coil cone loudspeakers: Edward W. Kellog and Chester Rice developed the modern moving coil cone loudspeaker in 1924, changing audio forever. Their design was straightforward, reliable, easily manufactured yet capable of high fidelity. Since then, many newer, higher technology loudspeaker designs have been invented, some of which should have obsoleted all previous technologies. Yet, none have achieved the ongoing commercial success of the traditional moving coil cone loudspeaker. It is hard to imagine anything else playing our music at any time in the foreseeable future.

Revolvers: whether you see handguns as the embodiment of senseless violence or a necessary self-defense weapon, it's hard to deny the continuing popularity of the revolver. First introduced in 1814 by Elisha Collier but popularized in 1836 by Samuel Colt, the revolver remains one of the most common weapon technologies. Despite ongoing advances in firearm technology, the revolver's simplicity, low cost, unmatchable reliability, and relatively simple training requirements guarantee that it will remain a commonplace firearm until mankind becomes enlightened enough to no need weapons no longer.

Oil lanterns: No one knows when and where the first oil lamp lit up the night for ancient mankind. The oldest known oil lamp was found in a cave near Lascaux, France that was inhabited 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. It still works. Today, oil lamps should be museum relics but they're still lighting campsites, remote locations and our homes during natural disasters and electrical power outages. No modern or future technology can ever outdo the oil lamp. Long after the incandescent light bulb has faded into history, long after some future technology has replaced LEDs, the oil lamp will endure, its warm glow piercing the night.

Horses: humans have been riding animals for transportation since before recorded history. Modern motor vehicles still haven't replaced the joy and romance of riding a horse. One hidden advantage of a horse: you don't have to trade it in for a new model every few years.

Vacuum tube amplifiers: Once the mainstream amplifier technology beginning in 1907, the advent of affordable transistor circuitry during the late 1960s spelled the end of vacuum tube amplifiers. Well, not so fast. More than a century later, the unique sound of the glowing amplifiers still delights musicians and audiophiles alike.

Film cameras: The versatility and instant photography afforded by digital cameras arguably should have entirely swept away film photography into museums. Since its cumbersome beginning in the 1820s, film photography has suffered from one serious drawback: the film has to be chemically processed before the photograph can be viewed. By then, if the photograph isn't good, it's too late to do anything about it. Regardless, photographic film has an aesthetic quality that ensures a loyal, utterly-devoted following. Film's chemical process itself is a fascinating and satisfying pursuit for millions.

Gliders and Hot Air Balloons: powered aircraft rendered unpowered gliders and balloons obsolete, right? For military, commercial and general aviation, yes. Practicality isn't everything, though. The exhilaration of unpowered flight will keep it alive for as long as mankind craves a good adrenalin rush.